Arizona Communities Building Green

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Greenbuild 2009, the world’s largest conference and expo dedicated to sustainable building, is coming to Phoenix later in the week. See how Scottsdale, Chandler and Coconino County are leading by example in green building and sustainable design.

Ted Simons: If you think homes and buildings should be energy efficient, nontoxic, and socially and environmentally responsible, then you're in good company this week. Greenbuild 2009, the world's largest conference dedicated to green building, is coming to Phoenix. It features a keynote address by former vice-president Al Gore and an expo at the Phoenix convention center featuring more than a thousand vendors offering sustainable products and services. The event is sponsored by the U.S. green building council. We recently spoke with a its president and CEO about the value of building green.

Rick Fedrizzi: Why build green buildings? It's a question we used to hear a lot. We don't hear it so much anymore. The question we hear now is, why would you not build green buildings?

David Majure: Rick Fedrizzi is partly responsible for that paradigm shift. He's the founding chairman, now president and CEO, of the U.S. green building council. That's the group that developed the LEED rating system used to certify to what extent a building is environmentally responsible.

Rick Fedrizzi: LEED is an acronym of leadership in energy and environmental design. We never say that you should build a building based just on the points themselves. What we want is a very sophisticated intelligent design team to come along early in the process, look at the location in which that building is being built, look at the bio, regional kind of issues relative to when you look at water, the water issues here in Phoenix are a heck of a lot different than those in Seattle. Understanding the local climate, understanding the local opportunities, and then building a spectacular building. I think in most of the cities and the states that I'm looking at in the United States right now, it would almost be embarrassing for someone to say, wait, we just want a conventional energy wasting, water wasting toxic building. Everybody knows LEED right now. Most municipalities around the United States, including here in Phoenix, have got an ordinance for their own public buildings basically saying that the performance has to be a certain level of LEED. And I think that that's really becoming more commonplace. The most difficult and the biggest challenge we have relative to green buildings in the United States is the existing building stock. Every building that's out, there including the one we're in now, has to at some point have a meaningful upgrade towards higher efficient technologies, nontoxic materials, water saving technologies. And when that does, you'll find this entire building stock of things that right now people would not want to invest in, becoming something that's very attractive from an investment potential. Buildings that are upgraded to a green standard may in fact be one of the best investment hedges we have right now available to us.

Ted Simons: Here now to talk about the green building movement in Arizona, Amanda Acheson, sustainable building program manager for Coconino county, Anthony Floyd, green building program manager for Scottsdale, and Jason Crampton, city planner and green building coordinator for the city of Chandler. Good to have you all on "Horizon." Thank you for joining us. Before we get to your individual municipality and what goes on there, this green build conference is in town. How big a deal is that for Arizona?

Amanda Acheson: It's a very big deal. It's a great opportunity for our community to highlight all the great projects that we have happening, and how the green movement that we're doing -- it's a wonderful opportunity.

Ted Simons: Are we ahead of the curve a little bit as far as green build right now, Arizona in particular?

Anthony Floyd: Nationally? I think we're gaining ground, but historically we've been behind quite a bit. But I think -- I know in the city of Scottsdale, with solar permits, there's a greater increase of activity because the federal and tax credit credits, the utility company credits and solar permits are way off the scale.

Ted Simons: Jason, are you seeing that as well, or are we still having a little ways to go?

Jason Crampton: I think we've got a ways to go. We're definitely moving in the right direction. There are a number of projects in Chandler that we've seen just over the past couple years. We've got slow economy right now, slow construction, but a lot of the construction that is taking place is going green. So we're moving in the right direction.

Ted Simons: Define building green. What does that mean?

Amanda Acheson: It's building smart. Resource efficient. That includes energy efficient, water efficient, material efficient, using affordable high-return methods that make sense for a region and climate. Building using local resources, including suppliers, builders, contractors. Supporting the local economy. It's a whole list -- a holistic approach to building.

Ted Simons: And why build green? If that's what building green is, why do you do it? Why is it important?

Anthony Floyd: It's accounting for the unintended consequences. Because historically we haven't accounted for the damage from energy use from building materials that we actually produce and consume. All the energy that goes into building buildings. And so this is to be more environmentally responsible to account for those unintended consequences so we're more resourceful with our resources and our energy. And the bigger issue when you have thousands, millions of people around the country all building, it has an impact. So we have to look at the consequences of our building and the materials and the choice Wes make.

Ted Simons: Is that how you see it as well?

Jason Crampton: Definitely. From a cost perspective too, from a municipality's point of view, it makes sense. If you only look at the first cost, your construction cost, it might not make stones build green, but if you look at the life cycle of the building, you need to look at the whole energy use, the maintenance, everything, and building green does make sense environmentally as Anthony discussed, and it's what we need to do. But from a cost perspective, it just makes sense.

Ted Simons: But that cost perspective, isn't it difficult at times to convince -- I know some green projects are simply more expensive at the outset. And you have to look into the future. In an economy like what we have going on right now, how difficult is it to get past that initial outlay and say, here's what's going to happen five, 10, 15 years doubt line?

Amanda Acheson: It's getting to be an easier sell, because of the rising utility costs. The rising cost of materials themselves, copper, for example. So in comparing the up front cost to the life cycle, the overall cost of a project, the sale of the up front cost is getting easier.

Ted Simons: Is that how you're seeing it as well? Because again, when people think that building green, that's too expensive to do right now, we don't have the economy for that sort of thing, how do you tell them that down the road it might be more beneficial?

Anthony Floyd: There are shades of green. It's about design. Good design is accounting for those unintended consequences. That's been around for a long time. So you can have a little green, a lot of green, depending on how green you want to be. A lot of green costs a lot of green. Literally. But there's soment passive integrated things you can do from a design point of view, it's just good design, that doesn't cost anything.

Ted Simons: You're in Scottsdale. I want to start with the fire building that you've got going out there. We're taking a look at it now. This looks like a good old fashioned fire building. You're telling me this is a green building.

Anthony Floyd: It's LEED platinum certified. Our station number two, downtown Scottsdale, great water, solar hot water, photo voltaics, rain water hash vesting, it uses passive design to reduce energy use. It's a really great building.

Ted Simons: Was that a new building or retrofit?

Anthony Floyd: Newly constructed. And it was designed to be compatible with the neighborhood and adjacent buildings. So all the choices of colors, the materials, the metal roof, everything is really compatible from a design point of view. So it's about integrating design, green building with compatibility.

Ted Simons: Talking about design, we saw something traditional. I know you have the granite reef senior center, that is a very much more modern look to it.

Anthony Floyd: Yes, it is. We partnered with SRP. The solar shade canopy has a very large system, and 5KW, that's the capacity of the solar system is part of the shade canopy. Building an integrated P.V., part of the design of the structure.

Ted Simons: OK. And one more structure that we wanted to show for from Scottsdale was -- people don't necessarily think of a trailhead building as something that needs to be LEED certified or sustainable, but this is -- where is this? By the McDowell Mountain?

Anthony Floyd: This is at the McDowell Mountain Preserve. Lost dog trailhead. It's rammed earth, solar hot water, rain water harvesting, gray water, composting toilets. It comes out of the desert, the earth, the materials, the walls are made from the desert. So it's very compatible and appropriate for that site.

Ted Simons: And now over across town, to Chandler, at least south and take a look at the buildings you have there including a building being constructed right now in Chandler, the city hall building. We've got a rendering, and this is a phenomenal looking building.

Jason Crampton: That's great. It goes to show you can build green and still have an attractive building. 120,000 square feet, we're pursuing LEED gold, uses daylighting, cooling efficiency equipment. We're 30% less energy building than a standard building. Very energy efficient structure.

Ted Simons: Was it difficult to get public officials to look at a city hall building, a new city hall building and say let's go green, as opposed to let's just get a structure up and take it from there?

Jason Crampton: I think the green component has been a pretty easy sell. We've done a lot of research as staff and presented a lot of information to different decision makers about green building and some of the cost savings. We've had a lot of knowledgeable decision makers looking at the long-term cost of building. So we wanted to build this, but we wanted to do it right.

Ted Simons: We saw Scottsdale's Fire building. You have a fire building as well, the administration building that looks, again, like a good old fashioned fire building. But this is a sustainable green build.

Jason Crampton: Right. Very classic look to this building. And this just opened a few weeks ago. LEED silver certification, may even get to the next level. But a very energy efficient structure, and as Amanda was talking about, it uses local materials. Over 40% of the materials are coming from regional sources. So we're not creating a big carbon footprint just hauling materials over to build this structure.

Ted Simons: So far we've seen a lot of public buildings. How do you get private industry, like the orbital building, how could you get -- how do you get the private sector to get on board?

Jason Crampton: This is tricky. We have a number of incentives. We offer recognition awards and other incentives which help a lot, but really it's the economy that's driving it now, and the knowledge that's out there about green building and the fact it makes sense, companies are starting to understand is that I think more and more, and we'll see more in the future.

Ted Simons: I imagine let's get up north and take a look at Coconino County. We have an apartment complex, apparently that is entirely solar power? Or mostly solar?

Amanda Acheson: Mostly solar power. It's a five-condo unit that was built as an infill project in the city of Flagstaff. So they were able to take three dilapidated homes, recycle many of the materials, and build a five-condo building with solar power, rain water harvesting for the toilets, great indoor environmental quality, low VOC paint. It's a beautiful condo.

Ted Simons: That's a beautiful condo, and ADOBE homes are beautiful for anyone who's lived in Arizona for any amount of time. This is a sustainable adobe home.

Amanda Acheson: Correct. It's an off-grid system, which in Coconino county, being the second largest county geographically in the nation, we have a lot of of-grid, not grid ties, so not tied to a utility source homes that need to be sustainable to survive.

Ted Simons: We do have photos of the adobe bricks, but what we're looking at looks like wood.

Amanda Acheson: They did adobe and insulated it on the outside and did wood paneling on the outside to keep it affordable.

Ted Simons: There we go. Again, getting homes, individuals, getting developers, home builders and such on build with green build. Difficult?

Amanda Acheson: It can be challenging, but through education incentives and support, working with the code process, it becomes more applicable, more easy for people to move in that direction.

Ted Simons: Last stop in Coconino County is a shipping container project that is fascinating. Tell us about this.

Amanda Acheson: This is another great example of the infill project. This is an owner designed and then it's recycling -- a recycled shipping container that has traveled across the seas, like four times each one is registered, and they -- there's seven of them. They're doing a passive solar design, so they're not only recycling land, but they're recycling shipping containers that otherwise would have ended up in the landfill, or taken resources to recycle.

Ted Simons: Interesting. I want to ask you all this, as far as municipalities are concerned, is there the money for the initial outlays necessary to get this kind of thing going? Again, tough economy right now, is there the money, is there the will?

Anthony Floyd: There's I think there's both. We have to look at city facilities the long-term approach for city facilities. We're the long-term operator, and it's most prudent and fiscally responsible way to manage taxpayers' money, is to do it right the first time. In the long run we're saving money, particularly for government facilities.

Ted Simons: Again, is there that money there, though? You gotta have it now, or you gotta convince people to bond for it later. Is the will there?

Jason Crampton: It's definitely a challenge. I do believe the will is there, and if you look at how our budgets align, we've got some up front savings that we've been saving money a year over year over year to construct some of the facilities but it's our ongoing future revenues that we're a little unsure, which that's where we want to address by building green. We'll reduce our energy use, our ongoing costs.

Ted Simons: The idea of requiring city buildings, especially, to be LEED certified, is that one way to push the project forward? And is it necessary, especially considering the cost?

Amanda Acheson: It is a way to move forward. LEED certification comes with guidelines, support, and education, and it creates a checklist, if you will, or a road map on how to get there. So the green building council and LEED and local sustainable building programs help create a pathway to go in that direction. So you don't have to go out on your own and learn how to do it. And, yes, we need to look at energy security, and our counties and cities are very much at the forefront of leading the way for energy security in our communities.

Ted Simons: Is that how you're seeing it as well in the requirement for LEE certification, is that a necessary situation?

Anthony Floyd: For us in Scottsdale, because we have a green building program for the private sector, for residential, where one out of three homes are certified under green building, so we're doing that for the private sector, including commercial. But for our own city facilities we need to have a third party outside of our organization to look at us. We can't self-certify our own buildings. We need an independent organization that certifies our buildings.

Ted Simons: That requirement is not going away, is it?

Jason Crampton: Oh, no. [LAUGHTER]

Ted Simons: Not if you have anything to do with it. Hey, thank you all for joining us tonight on "Horizon."

Amanda Acheson, Jason Crampton and Anthony Floyd: Thank you.

Amanda Acheson:Sustainable Building Program Manager for Coconio County;Anthony Floyd:Green Building Program Manager for Scottsdale;Jason Crampton:City Planner and Green Building Coordinator for the City of Chandler;

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